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RHUBARB (Rheum Rhabarbarum)

Requires six hours or more of strong, direct sun per day. Full Sun
Requires six hours or more
of strong, direct sun per day.
Requires two to six hours of direct sun per day. Part Shade
Requires two to six hours
of direct sun per day.


RHUBARB (Rheum Rhabarbarum)The Rhubarb plant is not finicky. It can be grown anywhere, although cool seasons and freezing winters are most to its liking. The cold produces a delicate pink shade on the stalks and makes them look quite appetizing.

Rhubarb is usually propagated by division of the fleshy roots known as corms. These may be obtained from a seed supplier, nurseryman or from a friend with an established rhubarb patch. Each piece must have a good, strong eye.

In most temperate regions, the corms are planted in early spring, but in milder regions, they can be planted in late autumn after the foliage of the mother plants have died down.

Planting Rhubarb

Select a rich, well-drained, loamy soil well supplied with organic matter. Plant the crowns about three or four inches deep or so that the buds are two inches below the surface. Distance between rows is four to five feet and between plants within the row, two to three feet, depending on the richness of the soil and the vigor of the varieties selected.

moonGROW Advice
To produce the best crop of delicious plants, Rhubarb should be planted when the moon is in the 3rd Quarter (i.e. waning) and in the following Zodiac Sign: Aries

Maintaining your Rhubarb patch

Do not pull rhubarb from first-year or crown-piece settings. First-year roots should have their initial growing season to develop firm roots, and removal of the stalks will only cause the roots to put forth more leaf and top growth.

Gardener's tip:
Feed your rhubarb plants regularly from year to year, heaping compost or manure around the plants in fall and incorporating it in early spring.

Remove the flower stalks as soon as they appear for, though they are striking and ornamental, they exhaust the plant and tend to lessen the quality and quantity of the edible stalks. Rhubarb patches will continue to produce for many years, though some growers prefer to divide clumps after five or six years and replant the divisions in an enriched soil.

Forcing Rhubarb

For winter harvests or early spring crops, rhubarb can be forced.

Select two- or three year-old roots in the fall and place them in a shallow box. Cover them with about one inch of light soil, peat or sand, and let them remain out-of-doors until several light frosts have occurred. Then, bring these roots indoors and plant them in pots or flats and place them in a warm, dark cellar or a hotbed.

A much simpler, though perhaps less reliable, method of forcing involves simply placing a keg or bucket over the crowns where they grow in the garden. Pile fresh manure around the bucket and mulch with straw.

This provides the necessary warmth and forces the plant to seek the light by growing taller than if left in the open. If the bucket is set over the crowns in late February, fresh rhubarb can be harvested by mid-March.

Rhubarb insects and diseases

For the most part, rhubarb is not troubled by insects and disease. Occasional leaf eaters can be easily checked by handpicking. Cut out flowering growths which take nourishment away from the plants and reduce their vigor.

Root damage can be recognized by the appearance of limp, discolored stalks early in the season. The root may be so extensively damaged that it will die during its winter dormancy. Foot rot, or phytophthora crown rot, is the most serious of rhubarb diseases. As the infection spreads, first one stalk and then another will wither and die. The only preventive measure is to remove the plants and give the soil in which they were grown plenty of sunlight.

Harvesting Rhubarb

Never use a knife to harvest rhubarb stalks. Instead, grasp them near the ground, twisting sideways. If breaking the stalk leaves a short piece attached to the crown, carefully remove it. Parts of stalks allowed to remain on the crown will deteriorate and may encourage the formation of rot. Never eat rhubarb leaves; they are poisonous.

Varieties of Rhubarb

Canada Red is an extra tender and sweet variety, perfect for canning or freezing. Valentine is very sweet and requires little sugar. MacDonald and Ruby are bright red in color and have a tender texture. Victoria is an old-fashioned variety, less desirable since its stalks are thick and green with a tart flavor.

Spring Gardening
Copyright© 2016 Gene DeFazzio
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